Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Visnevski Trade

The acquisition of Vishnevski for Karl Stewart, a 2nd rounder, and a conditional pick certainly adds yet another defensemen to the training camp stew. At the moment, the Thrashers will open camp with nine players who are all competing for six spots in the starting lineup. Havelid is the team’s best defenseman. Sutton and De Vries are veterans who have jobs (can you read my lack of enthusiasm for those two?) while Vishnevski and Exelby are defensive defensemen who can dish out some mean hits. According to my math that leaves McCarthy, Coburn, Hnidy and Popvic battling for one starting job and perhaps a spot or two on the bench. Both Coburn and Popovic can be sent back down this year and I expect that they will be unless someone is hurt in camp. That puts McCarthy in the last roster spot and Hnidy as the healthy scratch/depth guy.

I wonder if Don Waddell saw Visnevski deal as an opportunity too good to pass up? Other than Exelby that isn’t a lot of "jam" on the Thrashers blueline and Vishnevshi could certainly help in that area. Or does it lay the ground work for a future deal that will see some of the team’s defensemen or D prospects exchanged for a forward?

Or is just part of an ongoing pattern of going to great lengths to build organization depth? The team is stocked with four goalies who have played in the NHL (Lehtonen, Hedberg, Brathwaite, and Garnett). The team added some guys (Krog and Larose) who have played in the NHL but will likely start in the AHL until injuries make call-ups necessary. This team has the best depth it has ever had, which may allow it to survive when injuries strike.

The Big Picture

If the Thrashers are going to make the playoffs this coming season it is absolutely critical that they improve on the defensive side of things. The departure of Savard and Bondra will likely lead to a decline in the teams offense (which ranked 5th out of 30 teams). If the offense declines, goal prevention becomes all the more crucial. Last year the team ranked 18th in shots allowed which is slightly below average, but 24th in save percentage. If the team can make the modest jump to league average in shots allowed (30.0 per game) and a bigger jump to slightly better than league average in save percentage (.900) that works out to a reduction of 25 goals allowed over the course of the season. Will that replace the goals lost by replacing Bondra and Savard with Bourret and Rucchin? It is impossible to say for certain, but I would point out that a 25 goal reduction last season would have moved the Thrashers from being bad defensively (24th) to about average (14th).

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